WWE Match of the Year 2020

Much like every company (and every person) in 2020, it’s been one hell of a year for WWE, with a lot of ups and downs. However, it led to many things we’ve never seen before, some stuff we never thought we’d see in a WWE ring and a lot of bloody good wrestling. So, as we sail off into a new year which surely HAS to be better than this one, let’s take a look back at some of the best matches WWE gave us in 2020.

10 – Men’s Royal Rumble – Royal Rumble

Putting a Royal Rumble on the match of the year list almost feels like cheating, because even a lousy rumble is at least a little bit good. However, I think this one did enough unique things that it deserves to be spoken about.

Rumbles often have a bit of a through-line story to them, especially when there’s a story surrounding who enters first, however, normally in that instance it’s about that wrestler being an underdog. So here, we finally got a chance to see what it would be like if that formula got turned on its head. Brock dominating the first half of the match was brilliant, I know some people say it went on for too long, but I entirely disagree, it was perfect. Not only was it something new, but it gave us so many great little moments between Brock & various competitors, and the little moments are what make a lot of the best rumbles so good.

On top of all that, it led to what was possibly the largest crowd reaction of the year (not exactly a high bar, but whatever) when Drew eliminated Brock from the match. From there we got loads of really fun Rumble antics that hit all the beats you want from a match like that. We got a bunch of fun action as the ring filled up, until what was ACTUALLY the biggest crowd reaction of the year when EDGE returned to wrestle for the first time in 9 years. Then, as the match drew (heh) to a close, we got another brilliant final four-segment between Orton, Edge, Roman & Drew that gave me a result I wasn’t expecting but was very happy about.

The past few years have been absolutely brilliant for rumble matches, and it makes me all the more excited for 2021’s version of the match, whatever form it takes.

9 – WALTER(c) vs Ilja Dragunov – NXT UK 29th October
(United Kingdom Championship)

Live crowds weren’t the only thing we missed out on this year, thanks to the UK’s restrictions, NXT UK was off the air for a large chunk of the year. However, once it came back, they did as much as they possibly could to make up for all the time they missed.

Truth be told, there isn’t really anything complicated about why this match is so good. It’s not a technical masterpiece or an epic story, it’s just two men beating the absolute stuffing out of each other for twenty minutes, and it blew me away. WALTER wrestled a ferocious style at the best of time, it’s what made his matches against Dunne and Bate so incredible to watch, but when he’s up against a guy like Dragunov who, despite his smaller size, can hit back just as hard, it’s compelling in the weirdest way possible. Almost like a car crash, in that, you just can’t quite bring yourself to look away.

Despite the brutal style, they still did a great job making Dragunov someone I wanted to cheer. I don’t watch NXT UK’s weekly show very often, so I wasn’t very well informed of the story going into this match, but I got all I needed to from watching the match itself. He was able to mix his strong strikes with that kind of plucky underdog style of creating openings and pulling out ‘hope’ spots; a factor that is greatly aided by the fact that WALTER is bloody massive. There’s a reason you have to write his name in all-caps, after all.

This match was a brilliant showcase of the best of what the division has to offer, which was desperately needed after the show had been off our screens for many months.

8 – Bayley(c) vs Sasha Banks – Hell in a Cell
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)
(Hell in a Cell)

Bayley and Sasha are just really good at wrestling each other.

Their NXT matches are, in my opinion, the two very best women’s matches the world has ever seen (and in the conversation for best overall) and they haven’t missed a beat since those encounters, even with the heel/face roles reversed. In fact, I’d argue the reversal of the roles was to this match’s benefit, as it created a very different feeling match. Sasha can draw love from any crowd by simply selling like she’s being murdered with every move she takes. At the same time, Bayley spent 2020 producing the best heel-work seen in the company all year, to the point where the super-babyface NXT Bayley genuinely feels like a completely different person.

Hell in a Cell matches are usually not for me, they’re the very height of slow builds to high spots we’ve seen plenty of times before, but in this match, the competitors didn’t let the weapons detract from the action. Other cell matches would grind the match’s pace to a halt so the wrestlers could set up a spot, only to immediately go through the motions to do the next one, in this match, the weapon spots were primarily set up during the auction. There were a few points where things had to slow down, but they were few and far between, and the match’s wrestling action spoke for it more than the weapon spots.

That said, what weapons spots there were had a significant impact. The thread of Bayley using the chair that came back towards the end was classic storytelling done to near-perfection, and it helped the match build to its climax. Sasha winning wasn’t was I was expecting going in, but with hindsight, it was definitely the right conclusion. I’ve become so used to WWE dragging out stories for way longer than they needed to, that I forgot how great it feels when the big win happens when it feels like it’s supposed to. It rounded off a great match which a wonderful emotional moment that left me with very positive feelings.

7 – The Undertaker vs AJ Styles – Wrestlemania 36
(Boneyard Match)

I was really worried this was going to be crap. The few times in the past WWE had tried cinematic matches, they’d been awful, or cheap imitations of what other companies had already done. However, when the world felt like it was ending, WWE pulled out all the stops and created some genuinely amazing pre-taped stuff this year. The Money in the Bank match isn’t on this list, but it was a little bit out there, and genuinely hilarious with the bits they filled it with, and it showed that when WWE employees are allowed to be creative, they can create some magic. Speaking of…the boneyard match.

It reminded me of some of the more epic fight scenes from movies, but with a difference. The thing is, in a movie, a fight scene is just one part of the overall story, there’s usually so much more going on around it that the scene is either short or constantly cut away to see what the other characters are going. However, in a wrestling match, the fight IS the story, so we got 24 minutes of two men fighting like their lives depended on it.

The build was a little bit goofy, but in the match itself, both men leaned all the way into it, and it made it work. AJ became the most hatable human in the world and Undertaker had the badass vibes we haven’t seen from him in a while. With the hindsight of knowing this is Undertaker’s last match, it gains a whole other layer too. The way he fights like an old gunslinger on his way out of the door, the way he acts so visibly tired in some points, and even the way he talks to Styles as he puts him in the ground. It’s not the send-off I expected, or even wanted for Taker, but it really works.

It was the kind of match that I was genuinely on the edge of my seat during it because it was something I’d never seen before. Every new twist popped me in some way, and at the end of the day, it left me with a massive grin on my face, and I can’t ask for more.

6 – Roman Reigns(c) vs Jey Uso – Hell in a Cell
(Universal Championship)
(Hell in a Cell)
(I Quit)

There’s been a lot going on with Roman Reigns this year. After it looked like we were in for another run with face Roman at the top following Wrestlemania, the unfortunate circumstances forced him to take time off from WWE and miss out on that opportunity. We all knew he’d come back at some point, and I was looking forward to seeing him around again, but little did I know just how great it would be. After years of asking for it, we’ve finally got to see what Roman Reigns can do as a heel, and it’s absolutely fantastic. He has this aura of indestructibility around him that makes him the kind of figure you always want to pay attention to when he’s on-screen.

A considerable part of building this aura was his story with Jey Uso, where he showed himself to be genuinely ruthless in a way we haven’t seen from anyone in WWE for a very long time. Jey Uso is the kind of guy that I don’t think anyone ever saw as a single star, that’s not to say he didn’t have the potential to do well. It’s just his identity (and looks) as a wrestler are tied so heavily to his brother, it seemed impossible for them to do anything outside of the tag team division. This was precisely the right story to prove that belief wrong, though.

This match at Hell in a Cell is the best part of this story. The Cell is largely irrelevant, and to be entirely honest, so is most of the actual wrestling action. What matters here is that the story that was told was one of the most compelling WWE have told in years. Every element simply worked. Roman wanting to assert his dominance as the leader of the family, Jey desperate to prove himself, Jimmy wanting to make sure his brother didn’t get hurt and Heyman standing by to put the exclamation point on everything, along with being the personification of Roman’s betrayal of his old ideals.

The way Roman would put Jey down with such ease, only to watch Jey struggle to his feet. He would gain the advantage here and there, but it never lasted long. It was clear that Roman was the far superior wrestler, but Jey just wouldn’t say die, which ended up being his undoing. We got to see just how much of a bastard Roman has become, not just in the way he brutalized Jey, but in the way he pretended to break down crying, only to emotionally manipulate his cousins into letting their guard down.

It struck the right balance of drama so that it didn’t feel over the top, it just felt real, and I felt the emotional weight of every moment of it. It didn’t just establish Roman as an absolutely horrible person, but it elevated Jey’s standing to the point where he’s now seen as a credible singles competitor. Everybody wins.

5 – Drew McIntyre(c) vs Seth Rollins – Money in the Bank
(WWE Championship)

There really isn’t any complexity to this one, it’s just a bloody great wrestling match.

Drew McIntyre’s ascension in 2020 has been one of the more positive stories of this dark year. I’ve already talked about his Royal Rumble win, but once he actually had the title over his shoulder, the pressure was on to deliver. We all knew he had it in him, it was just a matter of whether or not it would be able to shine in his feuds. Thankfully, WWE knows what they’re doing sometimes and knew that Seth Rollins was the perfect person for Drew’s first major feud as champion.

This match let us see all sides of what Drew could (and would) give us as WWE Champion. He was able to look beatable, without looking weak, he was able to look tough without seeming too dominant, and most importantly, he could wrestle like hell and hang with the best. Both competitors came together perfectly to create a match that was an absolute joy to watch. When Rollins lets loose, there are honestly few better in WWE and McIntyre rose to his level particularly on that night.

Rollins adapted his fast & flashy high-flying offence into something slightly slower and hard-hitting. Instead of bouncing all over the place with some fast-paced flying knees, he slowed them down and made them more impactful when he smashed Drew in the face with them. It worked to Drew’s more brutal style and created the sense of a real fight that kept me engaged in the action from start to finish.

4 – Rhea Ripley(c) vs Charlotte Flair – Wrestlemania 36
(NXT Women’s Championship)

While Ripley’s star has faded slightly from what it was at the beginning of the year, the fact that she was able to have the best singles wrestling match of Wrestlemania against one of the best women’s wrestlers in the history of the sport is something that will forever keep her a star in the eyes of everyone inside and out of WWE.

This was the match I was the most hyped for going into Wrestlemania, and it didn’t disappoint. As the opening match for night 2, it set the tone perfectly for the rest of the show. It’s easy to roll your eyes at Charlotte these days after she was pushed so hard for so long, but we can’t forget that when it comes to pure wrestling ability, she’s in the discussion for best women’s wrestler of all time. Charlotte pulled out all the stops in this match, and Rhea matched her beat-for-beat. This match felt so explicitly crafted to make both women feel perfectly matched for one another, and Rhea came out of it looking like a star, even in defeat.

The action was so fluid and satisfying at all moments, with Rhea slipping into the role of the hungry underdog, while Charlotte looked down her nose at Rhea as the veteran. Charlotte underestimated Rhea in the opening segments but quickly learnt what she was capable of, which was all the story that was needed to turn this into one of the best matches of the year.

3 – Keith Lee(c) vs Dominick Dijakovic – NXT Takeover: Portland
(North American Championship)

While NXT is still an excellent wrestling product these days, it definitely feels like the golden era is over now. For the past couple of years, NXT has dominated my ‘match of the year’ lists, but as you’ve seen, it’s been pretty barren this year so far. I think it has suffered greatly from the lack of live crowds – perhaps more so than any other major promotion – so I guess it makes sense that one of their better matches would come before we were all locked down.

Keith Lee is a rocket waiting to take off. From his performance at Survivor Series 2019 all the way through 2020, you can feel the stardom that awaits him when he’s finally allowed to run free, and this remains one of his finest works. Interestingly, it took me a hell of a long time to get on board with Dominick Dijakovic (now Retribution’s T-Bar). For the longest time, I just didn’t understand what was so special about him, he was just another big guy, right? Wrong, very, VERY wrong.

Turns out, he’s a big guy moves like a cruiserweight and can put on fast-paced, exciting and bombastic matches with a wide range of opponents. Lee & Dijakovic clicked like you wouldn’t believe in this match, they were absolutely perfect for each other. Rather than focusing entirely on power, the early stages of this match focused more on the two competitors out-manoeuvring each other to get the upper hand, only busting out their feats of strength when they had the upper hand. Then, once the opening was out of the way, they slammed their feet down on the accelerator and started to destroy each other for our entertainment.

This match stunned me in how amazingly fast it was, yet it still managed to convey the two men’s power and brutality. All of the biggest moments came and went in a flash, and yet they left such an impression on me that I can still picture some of the spots almost a full year later. Lee seems like he’s going to reach the spot her deserves at some point over the next few years, and I hope Dijakovic does the same because he deserves so much more than what he’s currently getting.

2 – The Fiend Bray Wyatt vs John Cena – Wrestlemania 36
(Firefly Funhouse Match)

The only reason this isn’t number 1 because it wasn’t technically a match. Truthfully though, I believe it to be one of the best things WWE has ever aired.

When The Fiend lost to Goldberg, there was a lot of worry about how the character would be treated going forwards. This was the hottest property in the company all year, and it seemed like it was going to be squandered. Then, the character set his sights on righting the wrongs of the past, not just of himself, but of the company. Focussing on Wrestlemania 30 for this feud, and how Cena definitely shouldn’t have won was a brilliant way to frame the animosity between these two that hasn’t been done to this great effect before. Cena leaned all the way into it as well and came across like quite an embittered man about the whole thing, something Wyatt preyed upon.

I don’t even know how to go about breaking down how brilliant this whole thing was. It was a complete and total character assassination of, not only John Cena but the whole WWE system of hand-picked stars to carry the company. It’s a miracle that it was ever even allowed to air on a WWE product given that included lines such as puppet Vince McMahon saying “it’s such good shit”, a line used by Jon Moxley to mock Vince after he left the company. It broke down every aspect of John Cena’s career and highlighted how much of a farce it was, and how deeply flawed it was. While it didn’t directly address many of the topics at hand, it doesn’t take much backstage knowledge of WWE to understand the implications of stuff like nWo Cena, tearing down not only Cena but also Hogan’s history of keeping people down for no good reason.

The Firefly Funhouse match didn’t just blur the lines between fiction and reality, it straight-up shattered that line and used every broken piece of the line to create the finished product. It’s the kind of thing that I never thought I’d see on a WWE product and may never get the chance to see it again and I utterly adored it.

1 – Charlotte Flair(c) vs Rhea Ripley vs Io Shirai – NXT Takeover: In Your House
(NXT Women’s Championship)

While, in all honesty, the Firefly Funhouse match was probably my favourite thing to happen this year, this is a list about proper wrestling matches, and on that front, nothing this year came close to this match.

I don’t think NXT made the most of having Charlotte Flair as their champion. It’s not entirely their fault, as they were somewhat handcuffed by the fact that Raw still wanted to use Charlotte on a weekly basis without even referencing the fact that she was NXT Champion. Either way, there was definitely a feeling of wasted potential when it came to an end. That said, they sure as hell did their best to get as many amazing performances out of it as possible. I’ve already covered her Mania match with Ripley, but on top of that, we saw a great match against Io Shirai on NXT and this match, which is one of the best triple threat matches I’ve ever seen.

Shirai was definitely coming into this match with momentum, but I really didn’t think she stood a chance of winning the title. I’m glad that I was wrong about this, but I honestly thought NXT had missed the boat with her thanks to her rise coming right in the middle of Shayna Baszler’s run of dominance. The match’s story was definitely with Rhea & Charlotte following their Wrestlemania encounter, but Io Shirai burst into the feud and made sure her voice could not be ignored.

This patch was paced to near perfection, and never let up. It used the triple threat factor to its advantage and never let there be a moment where nothing was happening. Rhea felt like a vicious underdog who was looking to recover from her Mania loss, Charlotte fought like a woman fuelled by her hatred of anyone that wasn’t her, and Io came in like a house on fire, tearing down any and every obstacle in her way.

It had everything I want from a headline NXT match: Drama, action, excitement and ending out on both a surprise and a high-note. I think it says something about how fantastic NXT is that even in a year where I consider NXT’s performance to be sub-par, it put on some of the best damn matches in the entire company, in 2020.

WWE Wrestlemania 36: Predictions & Analysis

Ok…ok. Let’s all just take a second to breathe…

We all nice and calm? Yes? Good. Now WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!

I mean, obviously, we know what’s going with the world as a whole, but as to what WWE are doing with this show…I honestly don’t have the words. First, there was talk of it getting postponed until June, then they announced they were going to do it from the Performance Center with no crowd, then suddenly it was a two-night event and now it turns out it’s technically already happened because they TAPED it last week and NOW there’s a whole bunch of confusion over who actually is and isn’t wrestling on the show. A bunch of reports came out about Asuka, The Miz & Cesaro all refusing to wrestle, but apparently, that might’ve been WWE leaking some fake info to throw people off the scent? I honestly have no idea what going on, but it sure it WILD.

The real kicker is that despite all of this craziness, I can’t help but feel incredibly underwhelmed.

I know, of course, it’s not WWE’s fault. No-one could’ve seen this coming and given the circumstances, there is honestly no “right way” to go about this. Running the show at the PC has its downsides, but rescheduling for June, when we don’t know if the current global crisis will be over by then is arguably just as bad of a decision. However, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m not nearly as excited for this show as I was a month ago and I honestly don’t think it’s going to be as good as it could’ve been. Again, not WWE’s fault in the slightest, but it’s still true.

Still, I’m not going to go in with the mindset of hating it, I’m going to do my best to give it a chance since, on paper, almost all of these matches promise great things. It’s true that the lack of a crowd will take something major away from the matches, but they could still be fun to watch.

So let’s get predicting.

OH and just to clarify, I haven’t seen any spoilers from last week’s tapings of this show because that would defeat the point.

Aleister Black vs Bobby Lashley

Oh goodie, it’s a “we need to fill two nights” kind of match.

It’s hard to be critical of a match like this because we’re all well aware that it wouldn’t be happening if the current situation wasn’t as it is; or at the very least, we would’ve got some build to it if the circumstances were normal.  I think it could be a pretty good match, Lashley can pretty selectively put on surprisingly good matches so if everything comes together between these two we might be spending Monday talking about how we were pleasantly surprised by this one.

Aleister Black has got to win though, for the same reasons he’s had to win every PPV match he’s had over the past year or so. I’m really hoping that this match ends the “match for the sake of giving Black a win” phase of his story and we actually give him something with a bit of meat to it next. Still, as far as high-profile wins go, I think beating Lashley is a good one.

Elias vs King Corbin

Ironically, this is a match I’m pretty certain would’ve happened regardless of the circumstances and yet I care so much less about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Elias and Corbin’s ok, but I’m just not buying the animosity between these two. The upside of Corbin’s character is that all he has to do is say a few mean words and you can understand the other guy wanting him to take him down a few notches, but I really think that both of these guys could’ve been doing something a little more interesting. Then again, we’re not getting another Corbin vs Reigns match, so I guess I should be happy about it.

I’m pretty certain King Corbin is going to win this one. He’s spent the past few months losing to Roman Reigns over and over again and it’s not like WWE have ever cared about building Elias up as a legitimate star. I imagine Elias will use Gronk’s help to get one over on Corbin after the bell, but I’m fully expecting the actual win to go to Corbin.

Otis vs Dolph Ziggler

I really didn’t think this would get this far, but good on everyone involved for making it work.

I’ve made it clear before that I’m not really digging Otis as a personality, I think he falls just on the wrong side of silly for me. That said, I’ve actually been relatively invested in this storyline, I think it’s been well-written for the most part and has served its purpose of building Heavy Machinery up and stopped them from being “just another tag team” which so many pairings are right now.

I’m not overly invested in the outcome of this one, but I think if they get the level of shenanigans right, then I’ll come away from it having an enjoyable time at the very least. I’ve got to go with Otis on this one though, otherwise, this whole thing will have been for nothing in my view, it’s not like Dolph Ziggler needs the win and after this whole saga, I think we all just want to see the happy ending where the guy gets the girl…and then the girl’s friend starts beating the shit out her.

The Street Profits(c) vs Austin Theory & Angel Garza
(Raw Tag Team Championships)

I mean…ok?

I know there have been plenty of weird decisions made in the build to Wrestlemania this year, but this strikes me as one of the weirdest. At least when Andrade was in the match I could say it made some amount of sense and if he got injured then fair enough on finding a replacement but…why Austin Theory?

Don’t get me wrong, I like Theory, I think he’s a great wrestler, but out of everyone on the whole roster they could’ve picked to fill this role…why him? There’s no rationale behind this as far as I can tell and I don’t just mean in storyline, I mean in general. Admittedly, I certainly can’t think of anyone better to put in that spot, but it still feels weird.

Regardless of the strangeness surrounding it, I’m pretty confident this will be a good match. I have very little negative to say about any of these 4 men when it comes to their in-ring work and provided this gets a decent amount of time, this could be the sleeper hit of the weekend. The Street Profits should win this one because Theory & Garza winning would be stupid and they’d probably only hold the belts for about a week.

The Kabuki Warriors(c) vs Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

Alexa Bliss! I remember her.

I don’t mean to poke fun, but it really feels like Alexa has been away from the ring for ages now thanks to various injury scares and it’s almost like I’ve forgotten who she is to some extent. Her character is in this weird limbo where she hasn’t quite found her feet as a face yet outside of being Nikki Cross’ friend because everyone loves Nikki Cross.

Once again, I think the match will probably be a really fun one to watch, but I can’t say I’m all the invested in it. The Kabuki Warriors feel like they’ve been champions forever and I totally forgot that Bliss & Cross are actually who they won the titles from in the first place. It wouldn’t surprise me if we saw some form of character surprise here, with someone turning on their partner, although I couldn’t pick who. I don’t have any reason or justification behind that claim other than a gut feeling though, so who knows?

Picking a winner is a bit of dilemma too because I don’t feel like there’s much else for Asuka & Kairi to do with the titles. Which is extra weird when you consider they haven’t been defended for ages because Asuka’s been tied up with Becky and Shayna since January. On the other hand, I also don’t see any value in Bliss & Cross winning the titles back from the women they originally lost them too. I might be overthinking this, but I’m going with Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross to win the titles since Bliss has only recently returned to the ring. In addition to this, I can see Asuka & Kairi getting much more prominent roles as singles competitors to take on Shayna throughout the summer. I also think that Alexa’s already done all there is to do as a single star (at least until there’s a new crop of female talent on Raw & Smackdown), so the tag belts feel like the right move for her & Nikki Cross right now.

The Miz & John Morrison(c) vs The Usos vs The New Day
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)
(Ladder Match)

Now, THIS is the kind of thing that gives me life. Crowd or no crowd, crazy ladder spots always look cool…assuming this match really is happening…

I honestly don’t know what else to say about this match other than it’s got a 99.9% chance of being brilliant. We already know that The Usos & The New Day have some of the greatest in-ring chemistry currently in the WWE, so you pile on top of that ladders upon ladders AND a wonderfully heelish tag team for both of them to be trying to take down and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a brilliant match.

Not only will it be a brilliant watch, but I’m also pretty even when it comes to picking a winner. I don’t think it will be The New Day and they’re the former champions, but between the other two teams, I think it could go either way. On the one hand, Miz & Morrison are still pretty hot as a team right now and they haven’t had a long enough reign to really show their true potential for what they can do with the belts in the modern-day. Then on the other, you have The Usos, who feel like they’ve been inches away from taking back the Tag Titles ever since they returned late last year. In the end, I think I’m going to have to go with The Miz & John Morrison because I’m picking a lot of face wins and a lot of title changes on this show, so this is a nice heelish win (probably achieved through sneaky methods) to balance things out.

Kevin Owens vs Seth Rollins

How long has this match been building now? Since about Survivor Series?

I’m not complaining too much, as I actually think Rollins’ heel turn and character change has been very entertaining for the past few months, but this feud has in some way been a part of Raw for so long that it’s going to feel weird without it. Assuming this is their only match…which it almost certainly won’t be, but that’s not important.

This match seems like a sure-fire hit to me. Both of these guys are brilliant wrestlers who seem to know each other quite well and I’m sure they’ll put on something fantastic to watch. I imagine they’ll be shenanigans galore involving AOP, Viking Raiders & Buddy Murphy in one way or another, but I don’t think it’ll take anything away from the match. Ultimately, the only thing that could potentially drag this match down is the same thing that could potentially ruin every match for the next two nights, which is the lack of a crowd.

This is one of the matches I’m least confident about picking a winner for. Both guys haven’t had many major wins recently and both arguably need them. I think Owens has the potential to be one of the biggest babyfaces in recent memory if his rise is booked well enough, but on the other hand, I think WWE are really high on Rollins’ new gimmick right now and I fully expect him to be the first challenger for the WWE title following Wrestlemania. I genuinely went back and forth on this one so much, this is actually the second time I’ve had to rewrite this section this week because of how much I’ve been flip-flopping. I’m going with Kevin Owens, I think he’s got the most to gain from this win and it’s not like it will hurt Seth all that much to lose after the year he’s had. Not to mention, with one member of AOP being out of action again, it seems like his group might be falling apart sooner than expected.

Sami Zayn(c) vs Daniel Bryan

Yes, yes, ALL the way yes, hook this match directly into my veins.

Since I first started watching NXT in late 2014, this is the match I’ve wanted to see. If you’ve ever read any of my wrestling-based posts before then you’ll know how much I adore Daniel Bryan as a competitor and I feel a very similar way about NXT Sami Zayn. Now, admittedly, this isn’t NXT Sami Zayn, but I still think it’s going to be just as great, if not better. I was very much against Zayn winning the title from Strowman last month, but seeing the direction his character has gone in since winning it and how truly insufferable he’s become, I take it all back, this is brilliant.

There’s so many moving parts in this story too. I had no idea that Bryan vs Gulak would lead to them forming this student/mentor relationship, where the veteran Daniel Bryan is the student, but by God is it entertaining. Then there is the additional factor of Nakamura & Cesaro as “The Artist’s Collective” which is as good of a name as I suppose and we’ve got ourselves 5 of the greatest in-ring technicians of this generation involved in this match.

I’m also quite in the air about the winner. Zayn’s barely had a cup of coffee with the belt and given how amazing of a character he’s been, it’d be a shame for him to lose the title so soon. Then again, that’s also what I thought about Strowman’s run with the title and look what happened there. Not to mention Daniel Bryan with the Intercontinental Championship will inevitably lead to another run similar to Seth Rollins’ time with the title a couple of years ago where every match he has with it is amazing. I’ve also realised that Bryan winning the IC title is pretty much the only logical way to progress this story Bryan has going on with Gulak right now. So for all of those reasons, I’m picking Daniel Bryan to win this one.

Bayley(c) vs Sasha Banks vs Lacey Evans vs Tamina vs Naomi
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)
(Elimination Match)

I’ve not been a fan of how the Smackdown Women’s title has been treated so far this year. This match is just another mark that goes to show how bad of a job WWE has done of building the Smackdown women’s roster to a point where there’s a legitimate contender for Bayley come Wrestlemania; especially when she’s been tearing the house down as a character for well over 6 months now.

If this gets given a good amount of time (and with two nights, it bloody well better) I think this could be a lot of fun. Multi-wrestler matches are always able to keep up a much more frantic pace and the elimination stipulation adds for lots of story potential in order to keep everything ticking over nicely. Four out of five of these women are good-to-great wrestlers and I’m optimistic at what they could put together here given the opportunity.

When looking towards the result, that’s a little more tricky. I think there are two competitors with a pretty good chance and one more with an outside chance, those women being Bayley, Sasha Banks and Naomi respectively. Bayley vs Sasha is something we’ve all been begging to see for literally years, but since her big return last September, Sasha’s got no major wins at all. So here’s how I think the final three will go down:
– We’ll be left with Bayley, Sasha and Naomi
– Bayley & Sasha will try to double team Naomi, but she’ll break through it
– Some sort of situation will happen where Naomi lays Sasha out, but Bayley immediately shit-cans her out of the ring, leaving Bayley and an unconscious Sasha in the ring
– At which point, Bayley will pin Sasha to eliminate her, going on to use some sort of underhanded tactic to defeat Naomi too.

I’m picking Bayley to retain for a couple of reasons. One, because I think she’s doing fantastic as champion and I don’t want to see it end. Two, I’m predicting a lot of title changes on this show, especially with the major men’s and women’s titles and this is the only one I can see not changing hands. Finally, if a Sasha face turn is where this is leading, then I think it makes more sense for Sasha to be chasing the belt for the next couple of months instead of Bayley and Bayley deliberately eliminating Sasha from this match will give her some legitimate beef to build off of.

Rhea Ripley(c) vs Charlotte Flair
(NXT Women’s Championship)

When Charlotte Flair won the Royal Rumble, I (and I think many others) was a little worried that we were going to end up with Charlotte vs Bayley, a match we’ve seen plenty of times by now and don’t need to see again. However, rather uncharacteristically, when faced with two bad options, WWE managed to pick a third option that was better in literally every way and now Rhea Ripley gets to be the absolute star she deserves to be.

As much as I ragged on WWE for mishandling the Smackdown women’s division, the NXT & Raw women’s division have both been on fire for a long time now and that goes double for NXT. Over Survivor Series weekend, Ripley went from a fairly popular babyface to the single most over wrestler on the NXT roster and her title win against Baszler last December is easily one of my favourite WWE moments from last year.

I don’t think Ripley could’ve got a better opponent than Charlotte either. Not only is Charlotte a masterful technical wrestler, but her character and attitude are the polar opposite to everything Rhea Ripley is known for. It creates this perfect underdog story where the rough-around-the-edges personality of Ripley is attempting to prove that she’s on the level of arguably the most successful female wrestler of all time.

I’m picking Rhea Ripley to win here because she just HAS to. Not only is she still incredibly over with the NXT fanbase, but she’s riding such a strong wave of momentum that losing to Charlotte could be catastrophic to her career trajectory. On top of that, how weird would it be if Charlotte was NXT Women’s Champion? I know we’re supposed to see NXT as an equal third brand now, but I just can’t picture Charlotte holding that title and going up against wrestlers like Dakota Kai, Bianca Belair and Io Shirai on a monthly basis, as brilliant as that would probably be.

John Cena vs The Fiend Bray Wyatt
(Firefly Fun House Match)

Well, not a bad consolation prize for Wyatt, admittedly.

In a twist that I don’t think many saw coming, this feud has weirdly benefitted from the lack of a crowd these past few weeks. Wyatt’s always had a much more sinister delivery style, but the total silence of the room he’s in adds so much to that feeling that it genuinely felt extremely creepy. Cena’s done a brilliant job – like he always does – of building up the hype for this match too. He’s playing more into Wyatt’s promo style and presenting himself as a slightly edgier version of himself than normal too. The verbiage Cena’s been using recently as he runs down Wyatt is a little bit of pulling back the curtain, but I think it works for the story that they’re trying to tell.

I honestly don’t know what this match is going to be like, but I feel confident in saying that it’ll be a good one. Wyatt’s brought something unique to the ring every time he’s wrestled as The Fiend and Cena hasn’t put on a bad match since about 2015, so I’m confident they can pull this one-off.

The Fiend Bray Wyatt has to win here. I know I stressed that it was vital for Ripley to win, but I’d argue Wyatt getting the win over Cena is even more important. After being made to look like a total chump against Goldberg at Super ShowDown, The Fiend is on the cusp of going the way of every other unique wrestling character from the past decade. That is to say, absolutely nowhere for the rest of time. If Wyatt loses to Cena, then it’s over, not just for The Fiend but for Wyatt as a whole in the WWE, there’s simply nowhere else for him to go. HOWEVER, a win over Cena will be the perfect way for The Fiend to regain his credibility and it might just be enough for WWE to pull out of this nosedive they’ve taken the character on since February. So this one really needs to happen.

The Undertaker vs AJ Styles
(Boneyard Match)

I’m looking forward to this one, but I’m also a little bit wary of it.

When The Undertaker wrestles a match these days, it’s impossible to tell whether it’s going to be a total shitshow (see Taker vs Goldberg) or surprisingly great (see Taker & Roman vs Drew & Shane) but this is AJ Styles we’re talking about and he can carry just about anyone to a 4-star match. I mean come on, if he can carry Shane McMahon to a surprisingly great Wrestlemania match, he can do the same with The Undertaker, no problem. That said, the idea of a “Boneyard Match” seems a bit weird and one of those situations that’s only happening because of the circumstances. I remain optimistic that it’ll be something unique and interesting, but I’m mostly expecting it to be reminiscent of the House of Horrors; a nice little oddity, but not all that good.

The story for this one’s been a little bit weird as it’s mostly just consisted of Undertaker repeatedly laying AJ out and many people have been criticising this for making people not care about the match, but I wholly disagree, all I ever needed to be fully invested in this match was the sentence: “The Undertaker versus AJ Styles.”

I’d love to say AJ will get the win here, but there’s simply no way that’s happening. There’s no way AJ is going to be getting another world title reign anytime soon and let’s be honest, that’s the only other place to go after you beat The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. The Undertaker is going to walk away with the win here following what was hopefully a really good 20-minute match.

Edge vs Randy Orton
(Last Man Standing)

Another match taking place on-location and I don’t exactly see how this one is going to work. Are they just going to have a ring in a different place from the PC? Or is this actually going to be taking place in someone’s backyard or something? At least with the Boneyard Match, I can picture the kind of atmosphere they’re going for, but this seems a little odd.

That said, it’s Edge’s big return match, so I’ve got very little to complain about. Just looking at that match graphic still fills me with excitement at Edge finally being able to return to the ring. As I didn’t become a wrestling fan until 2013, Edge was already retired by the time I start watching and it’s exciting to be a part of a brand-new match of his that actually stands a chance of being pretty good, unlike many other returning legend’s matches.

I know, it’s a weapons match, involving Randy Orton, which are usually my two biggest turn-offs when it comes to a big match, but there’s so much intensity between these two and such a brilliant story, that I honestly think this could be one hell of a match. Not to mention, since this is Edge’s big return match, I’d say odds are pretty good he’s going to go all-out to prove he’s still got it, which I’m sure he does. Edge is going to win this one because come on…how could he not?

Goldberg(c) vs Braun Strowman
(Universal Championship)

Welp, there goes everything I’d already written about this match.

Despite the question decisions leading up to it, I was actually quite looking forward to Goldberg vs Roman Reigns. I thought it had some real star power behind it and had an outside chance to be a really fun match, in a car-crash sort of way. However, circumstances change and Roman Reigns pulled out of the match due to health concerns(which is 100% a fair decision and people having a go at him for it are just being arseholes. The man had a leukaemia scare last year you heartless wankers).

So now, with about as much ceremony as you’d expect given the situation, Braun Strowman has been inserted in to fight Goldberg instead and…ok? Maybe if WWE were in a position to give us some build for this then I’d be more excited to see it, but as it stands, just seeing these two guys slapped next to each other and being told to fight doesn’t do anything for me. I could sit here and speculate over whether or not I think this will be a good match, but I don’t think much more effort will go into this than the usual Goldberg affair.

As for a winner, I guess it could be seen as up in the air a bit. Goldberg was very obviously supposed to lose the title here to Roman, so they might just go through with that, plus WWE love to “surprise” us with the last-minute replacement winning (although, since they do it almost every time, it’s not much of a surprise). There’s also the fact that I doubt Goldberg will actually be able to lift Strowman up for a Jackhammer, but they can work around that. Despite all that, I’m still going with Goldberg to retain. Once all this is over, Roman is winning that Universal title one way or another and we’ve already seen Roman vs Braun far too much for it to be exciting. There’s also the fact that WWE has shown zero evidence that it’s ever been willing to get behind Braun as a top guy (even though they should) they’ve had so many opportunities over the past three years and they’ve backed away from it every single time.

I certainly wouldn’t be upset if Braun won the title, but I’m still leaning towards Goldberg retaining at the right move here.

Becky Lynch(c) vs Shayna Baszler
(Raw Women’s Championship)

Ohhh, it’s so close I can almost taste it and it tasted wonderful.

This is easily the match I’m most excited in seeing on this show, mostly because of how long it’s been rumoured and how long we’ve had to wait to see if it was actually going to happen, but here we are and I’m hyped.

While many people have seen their interesting waning in Becky Lynch recently, I entirely disagree with that viewpoint. After dispatching of Asuka I think she’s taken a really interesting character turn of not taking any threat seriously and I love that. She’s spent a year on top of the Raw women’s division and has beaten literally everybody, why should she take this upstart seriously? If the match leans into this story as well, then I think we could be in for a brilliant story-heavy match, which tend to be the kinds of matches were Baszler really shines. Her heel-work is outstanding and in order for the audience to buy-in to her big time, she needs to let it flow in every way possible.

As you can probably tell from how much I’m gushing, I think this match is going to be great. Both of these women have already proven themselves time and time again to be two of the best women’s wrestlers on the planet – Shayna in NXT and Becky over the past 18 months on Raw & Smackdown – and seeing them clash like this is bound to be something special and is likely to launch the Raw women’s division into a new era.

As you’ve probably guessed, that “new era” entailed Shayna Baszler taking Becky down and walking away with her championship. Not only would a loss here be potentially devastating for Baszler’s career, knocking her down way too soon in the same way Asuka got knocked down at Wrestlemania 34, but also if Becky did retain, where would she go from here? There’s no-one left for her to fight, even if they did a shake-up, the only wrestler from Smackdown on her level that she hasn’t had a high-profile match with yet is Bayley and she’s tied up in a different storyline. We need fresh matchups and fresh faces at the top of the Raw women’s division to prevent it from stagnating this year and having Shayna at the helm will be the perfect way to do that. Not to mention it could lead to an Okada-Esque downward spiral for Becky that could make for a very interesting story.

Brock Lesnar(c) vs Drew Mcintyre
(WWE Championship)

I honestly didn’t think we were ever going to see this. For the past year, I’ve felt like WWE were never going to get behind Drew like they should. He kept taking really major losses to guys like Ricochet and Dolph Ziggler when he really needed to be winning on a regular basis. Then suddenly, 2020 began and it’s like something totally switched in the minds of creative and they decided Drew needed to be the biggest badass the world has ever seen. Beating Orton & Styles in a triple threat match, eliminating Lesnar from the Royal Rumble and then winning the damn thing after Roman seemed the sure-fire winner and suddenly he’s the most legit title contender Brock’s had in years.

For the longest time, I’d believed Drew was at his best when he was a heel who could destroy just about anyone, but since he’s turned face I’ve been so much more into him as a character because aside from being a wonderful man in real life, he’s transformed into this tough-guy, good-guy that gets what he wants seemingly through sheer force of will and I’m totally behind him now.

I think this will be a great match too. When Brock’s enjoying working with someone, he will go all-out to put on a good match with them, just look at his matches with Styles, Bryan & Rollins for proof of that and from what I’ve seen between these two interacting on TV and what Drew’s been saying in interviews, it’s clear Brock is loving working with Drew. I’m expecting this to be a mega-hoss fight in the best possible way, we’re going to see these two men try to destroy each other in just about every way possible and I think it’s going to be amazing.

I’m always hesitant to pick against Brock, especially considering Vince can lose interest in his pet-projects at any moment, but I’m sticking to my guns and saying Drew Mcintyre is coming away with the title here. Everything about the build to this match just feels like it’s his moment and I really hope it comes to fruition. I don’t often get patriotic, but if this Wrestlemania gives us the first-ever UK-born WWE Champion, it will have a place in my heart forever.

So there you have it! Those are my predictions for the hot-mess that will likely be Wrestlemania 36! Let me know what you think is going to happen, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. As this event is running over two nights, I’m going to wait until Monday and review both nights as a whole, ranking every match across both nights in one big article. So I hope to see you there!

10 Biggest Title Changes In Summerslam History

While no show WWE produces will ever reach the of spectacle or importance of Wrestlemania, the one show that comes the closest is Summerslam. It’s position at the opposite end of the year from the grandaddy of them all means it’s a good mid-way point for the wrestling calendar, generally Summerslam is when we get an idea of what the stories are going to be for the rest of the year and there are even cases where WWE start to lay the ground work for Wrestlemania season.

A huge part of those storylines are the championships. It’s what everyone in the company is supposed to be fighting for after all and whoever is holding a title can be a big influence on what path the storylines go down. As such a big show like Summerslam is a great place to do some big title changes that can act as shifts in attitude for what the company will be doing in the months to come. Whether it’s the ending of a long-lasting storyline or the start of a new one, Summerslam has been home to some of the biggest and most fondly remembered title changes in WWE history, so I thought it would be nice if we looked over some of the biggest.

10 – Charlotte Flair def. Carmella(c) & Becky Lynch
(Smackdown Women’s Championship) – 2018

This title change isn’t big because of who won the title, who lost the title or even the story going into it, it’s what it started that makes this title change so important.

Support for Becky Lynch was big going into Summerslam 2018, people were sick of Carmella’s boring reign as Smackdown Women’s Champion and Becky had been underappreciated and underused ever since she lost the title at the tail end of 2016; so when a singles match between Carmella and Becky was booked for Summerslam people were excited. It seemed like it would finally be Becky’s time to shine…enter Charlotte Flair.

Charlotte had been away for a few months due to needing minor surgery and upon her return she was immediately inserted into the title match at Summerslam, making it a Triple Threat, people were not happy about this, to say the least. While Charlotte was a face at the time, people were getting increasingly tired of her dominance at the top of the women’s division (this being just off the back of her ending Asuka’s undefeated streak at Wrestlemania 34) and her insertion in this match that was supposed to be Becky’s coronation seemed like a slap in the face.

So imagine everyone’s displeasure when Charlotte won the title. No-one was happy about this, least of all Becky Lynch because after the match the two locked eyes only for Becky to unleash a vicious attack on Charlotte. This was intended by WWE to be a heel turn on Becky Lynch’s part (no matter what Road Dogg says on Twitter) but it ended up having the exact opposite effect as the crowd in the Barclay’s Center exploded with cheers and Becky unleashed on Flair. This is what ultimately led to Becky becoming “The Man” in WWE becoming the most popular wrestler in the whole company.

Ironically, as much as we all hated this title change at the time, without it we may never have gotten the perfect storm that was required for the first-ever women’s Wrestlemania main event this year, which ended in Becky’s true coronation as The Man.

9 – Stone Cold Steve Austin def. Owen Hart(c)
(Intercontinental Championship) – 1997

The Stone Cold character wasn’t quite in full swing yet, but when you talk about moments in Austin’s early WWF career, it’s hard to ignore this moment for both good and bad reasons.

Come 1997, Austin’s 3:16 persona was in full swing and although he hadn’t reached the height of his popularity yet, it’s clear he was only months away from permanent main eventer status. However, this was during a time in the WWF where in order to get to the main event, more often than not you would have to go through the Intercontinental Championship.

When Austin won the belt, it was officially his first singles championship in the WWF and was a clear omen of things to come for the superstar, although not quite as soon as we’d all hoped. As has been well documented by this point, a sit-out piledriver from Owen Hart to Austin in the match caused a severe neck injury that required Austin to undergo surgery and although Austin would return by that October, it would ultimately see him end his career so much earlier than we’d all have hoped in 2003.

That said, this title change was still a fantastic moment for Austin’s career and the injury meant that he was hotter than ever when he returned that autumn to take the title from Hart a second time.

8 – Ronda Rousey def. Alexa Bliss(c)
(Raw Women’s Championship) -2018

We’ve already talked about one half of the Wrestlemania 35 main event, now let’s talk about the other.

There are plenty of mixed opinions out there on how good of a wrestler Ronda Rousey is (I personally think she’s great), so naturally there was plenty of mixed opinion going around when Rousey won the Raw Women’s Championship from Bliss in extremely dominant fashion, just 8 months after debuting in WWE.

Love it or hate it, it’s impossible to deny that Rousey’s mainstream appeal and raw star power elevated the title to a level that it hadn’t been seen at in quite some time and given that Ronda would actually defend the title on a monthly basis, it gave us some great matches against the likes of Nia Jax and Sasha Banks along the way. Of course, it would be remiss of me to go without mentioning the part Ronda had to play in the Wrestlemania 35 main event this past year.

While Becky Lynch’s newfound persona was what got the fans so invested in the hype surrounding the match that would become the main event of Wrestlemania 35, I’d argue the match never would’ve been given that spot if it wasn’t for the star power and marketability of Ronda Rousey. Becky was what got the fans involved, but Ronda Rousey is what got the sponsors, the press and the mainstream public involved in that match becoming the monumental milestone for women’s wrestling that it was, and that makes this title change a massive one.

7 – Randy Orton def. Chris Benoit(c)
(World Heavyweight Championship) – 2004

You can’t argue with the making of a future HOFer.

Now, I’m well aware that this decision was only made in-part so Brock Lesnar would no longer be “the youngest world champion ever” after he left the WWE earlier that year, but it’s undeniable that this title win confirmed the fact that Orton would be a mainstay of the main event scene in WWE in the years to come. Benoit’s title reign was pretty disappointing as a whole, as it’s clear since the only things notable about it, is who he won it from and who he lost it to, but being tied in with Evolution the whole way did at least make this title win make a decent amount of storyline sense.

The thing that doesn’t make this title reign nearly as big as it could’ve been is what happened in the month after it. The next night on Raw, Evolution turned on Orton and Triple H demanded Orton hand the title over. This created a fantastically done face turn where Orton spat in Triple H’s face and laid him out. Orton quickly became the biggest babyface in the company (because anyone who faced Triple H in the early 2000s was the biggest Babyface in the company) however as many of these stories from this time period would end, Triple H beat Orton the next month at Unforgiven clean as a whistle and that was that.

As much as Orton would quickly have the rug swept from under him, this title win was a clear indication that the company had faith in him to carry a world title, and he would go on to carry many more before the present day.

6 – Brock Lesnar def. John Cena(c)
(WWE World Heavyweight Championship) – 2014

Brock Lesnar’s WWE return had been pretty lacklustre before 2014 rolled around. He lost to John Cena, lost to Triple H and beat CM Punk in matches that were all very good, but were completely inconsequential. Then 2014 happened.

Brock Lesnar would be responsible for the most shocking moment in WWE history at Wrestlemania 30 when he ended the undefeated streak of The Undertaker, this turned Lesnar into the most unstoppable force in all of WWE and he was going to eviscerate the next person he came up against. Conversely, the WWE title scene in the summer of 2014 was a little bit of a mess, Daniel Bryan was forced to vacate the title after facing a neck injury so the title was quickly placed back around Cena’s waist until they could work out what to do.

When it was announced Lesnar was going to be fighting Cena, there was alot of trepidation about how things were going to go down. Many thought Cena would do what Cena does and win even when he really shouldn’t and others thought Lesnar’s win over The Undertaker guaranteed a win here, but I think it’s safe to say no-one was expecting what actually happened.

In completely shocking fashion, Lesnar absolutely destroyed Cena. In this 15 minute match, Cena only got in about a single minute of offence and the rest was Lesnar throwing Cena all around the ring. By the time Lesnar pinned Cena to win the title it was clear we were going to see a title reign like never before, which is exactly what we got…over and over again for the next 5 years with various titles Lesnar would hold. So yes, this title reign may have lead us to years of Lesnar being an absentee champion for months at a time, but you can’t say that this moment in 2014 wasn’t a huge deal.

5 – The Ultimate Warrior def. The Honky Tonk Man(c)
(Intercontinental Championship) – 1988

Ok, so there’s not much to this one, but you can’t deny that it’s a moment that has endured stronger than most others over the years.

Although he was by no means the first, Honky Tonk Man is arguably the man who made the idea of a modern heel champion so popular, to the point where on the current WWE roster, there’s almost always at least one champion that follows this archetype. Getting counted out, disqualified and cheating to his hearts content, there’s nothing that The Honky Tonk Man wouldn’t do to ensure he held onto the Intercontinental Championship as long as he possibly could and for 454 days, it worked and when a champion uses heel tactics to hold onto a title for that long, when they eventually lose it, it’s huge.

Summerslam 1988 was the night in question for that huge moment to happen. After Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake – who was originally set to challenge for the title – was laid out and unable to compete, everyone was in the dark as to who The Honky Tonk Man would defend his title against that night. Until to everyone’s delight, The Ultimate Warrior came sprinting down to the ring and 30 seconds later he was the new Intercontinental Champion.

Warrior’s title reign didn’t end up being all that notable in the long run, but that didn’t matter, as the manner in which he won it would go down in the highlight reels for decades.

4 – Daniel Bryan def. John Cena(c) &
Randy Orton def. Daniel Bryan(c)
(WWE Championship) – 2013

We got ourselves a twofer because Summerslam 2013 was the night that set up one of the biggest moments of the decade.

John Cena vs Daniel Bryan was an excellent match and one in which the fanbase at large was completely and totally behind Daniel Bryan and no-one was really sure if WWE would actually let a guy like Bryan beat a guy like Cena. To our amazement, after a great match, Bryan pinned Cena clean as a whistle with the Knee Plus to win his very first WWE Championship and it was a brilliant moment. The biggest indie darling ever had finally reached the pinnacle of WWE and it seemed clear that times were changing in the WWE landscape. It wasn’t to last though.

As the confetti fell, the music of Mr Money in the Bank Randy Orton hit and the two men stared each other down. Orton then looked to back away, until special guest referee Triple H hit Bryan with the pedigree, allowing Orton to become WWE Champion. This set off the Daniel Bryan vs The Authority storyline that would be the A story for most of the way from that show until Wrestlemania 30 the next year.

If it wasn’t for these title changes here (and a little bit of pushing from the fans) it’s entirely possible that the wonderful moment of Wrestlemania 30 ending with Daniel Bryan holding both the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships aloft might never have happened.

3 – Brock Lesnar def. The Rock(c)
(WWE Undisputed Championship) – 2002

Say what you like about his push nowadays, but no-one before or since has seen a meteoric rise like that of Brock Lesnar in 2002.

The moment he showed up on WWE TV it was clear that Lesnar was ear marked to be the next major star for the company, quite literally being labelled as “The Next Big Thing” as an onscreen nickname. Debuting in March of 2002, it took a mere 5 months for Lesnar to be defeating The Rock for the WWE Championship. Lesnar made very short work of opponents like The Hardys and RVD and when he won King of the Ring, a title victory seemed inevitable.

Although Lesnar would sour WWE’s investment in him a couple of years later when he left the company, Lesnar left a lasting impression on the WWE and by the time he returned to the company in 2012 his star power had grown tenfold, as seen by the fact that since 2014 he’s almost always been holding championship gold. Lesnar probably would’ve reached this level of star power anyway, but WWE certainly did him all the favours in the world by building so quickly to this moment.

2 – CM Punk def. John Cena
(WWE Championship) – 2011

When CM Punk won the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank 2011, it was a huge moment. Not only was this the first time an “indie darling” had won the WWE Championship, but the storyline in play meant that Punk was now leaving the WWE for an extended period of time. Of course, that ended up not being the case, since 8 whole days later Cena had won the new WWE Championship and Punk reappeared to face off with him.

Eventually, a match was put in place for Summerslam to crown an undisputed WWE Champion, since both men claimed their title was the legitimate one. The matched carried on the threads from their match the previous month to create a pretty great match and ultimately Punk’s win here solidified him as more than just a flash in the pan champion. It would take a little longer for him to have his 434-day title reign thanks to a sudden Kevin Nash and Alberto Del Rio appearance after this match, but this certainly put everything in place.

1 – The British Bulldog def. Bret Hart(c)
(Intercontinental Championship) – 1992

I mean come on, what else could it be?

We’ve all seen the clip a hundred times by now because it really was that huge a moment. Wembley Stadium, London, England in 1992, the first (and to date, only) time a big 4 WWE PPV has been held in the UK, so what other match could you possible have outside of British Bulldog and Bret Hart, two of the best wrestlers of the time going at it for the Intercontinental Championship.

Obviously, I don’t have the same kind of emotional connection as many people as my birth was still 7 years away when this match took place (sorry if that made you feel old), but all you have to do is listen to the reaction of the crowd when Bulldog pinned Hart to see just how magical a moment it was for everyone in attendance at the time. It would ultimately be a short title reign for the Bulldog, but it didn’t matter in the end because, in a single moment, he had secured his legacy forever.

And that’s this list! Thank you very much for taking the time to read, let me know what you think of it in either the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Make sure to come back here next week as the Summerslam festivities continue with my predictions for next Sunday’s show!|

WWE Royal Rumble 2019 Predictions

The new year may bring some the depressing realisation of being yet another year closer to the grave, however to wrestling fans it means the excitement, anger and general confusion that comes with the Royal Rumble event.

How predictable a Rumble is, generally varies widely. Either it’s ludicrously obvious like in 2013, or completely unpredictable like in 2017, and this year we seem to have one of each. As usual the undercard seems pretty easy to call, however, the matches themselves look to be fantastic.

Rusev(c) vs Shinsuke Nakamura
(United States Championship)

Oh, this is still happening?

It’s not been officially confirmed as of the time of writing, but I imagine this will end up on the pre-show, and while these are both guys I like very much, I can’t say it deserves any better.

Rusev winning the US title on Christmas Day (which was also his birthday (which was also Rusev Day)) was a great point on that feud which felt like it had been going on forever. Instead, they decided to artificially extend the feud by having Lana take the world’s weakest bump and having it take her out of action for over a week (despite being an active wrestler herself).

The US title really needs something to save it soon because right now no-one has any reason to care about it. With any luck, someone like Almas will win it soon and make it matter again, as for now, I’m going to pick Rusev to retain here, mostly because I don’t see a reason for Nakamura to win it back any time soon.

Buddy Murphy(c) vs Kalisto vs Akira Tozowa vs Hideo Itami
(Cruiserweight Championship)

Oh hey, I remember when these guys used to have any sort of on-screen presence in WWE.

Believe it or not, I have actually been watching the occasional episode of 205 Live this month so I’m not just blindly guessing at what’s going on for once. Personally, I’ve been really enjoying Murphy’s title reign, putting on great match after great match, and I don’t really want to see it end anytime soon.

That said, I also really love Hideo Itami and all the stuff he did pre-WWE and in NXT, so finally giving him a platform where he gets to wrestle in front of an audience that actually cares about his existence. Kalisto is long past being worth anything in the cruiserweight division, and while I like Tozowa, his opportunity had come and gone if you ask me.

It boils down to a choice between my heart and my head, and realistically it doesn’t make sense for heel Itami to take the title off of heel Murphy, so I’m going to pick Buddy Murphey to retain.

The Bar(c) vs Shane Mcmahon & The Miz
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)

I don’t very often define a creative decision in WWE as “wrong”, because any creative decision tends to have some pretty sound ideas behind it and could end up leading to something great. However, Shane and Miz winning the titles here would very much be the wrong decision for this match.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad The Miz isn’t just floundering about doing shit-all until Daniel Bryan is ready to fight him again, but using Shane Mcmahon to do it really doesn’t feel like the right way to go. Miz obviously still has some beef with Shane from the World-Cup-To-Determine-The-Best-In-The-World™, and he’s obviously going to turn on him eventually, I just really hope they don’t win the titles before then.

The Bar has been looking really strong in this title reign, taking out The New Day, The Usos and AOP with relative ease and to have it end with them losing to Miz and Shane would be a disaster.

Unsurprisingly I’m picking The Bar to retain because I don’t want to imagine the alternative.

Asuka(c) vs Becky Lynch
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

Yes please.

This is the match that I’m planting my flag in for the match of the night. The Smackdown women’s division has been absolutely brilliant ever since Summerslam and this is the perfect way to keep the ball rolling. Taking the most popular wrestler and making them fight your second most popular wrestler, it’s booking at it’s simplest, yet most effective.

As for who should win, I think it’s pretty simple, but picking who will win is slightly more difficult. Personally, I think Asuka has to retain otherwise she may as well have never won the thing in the first place. The problem is, given that a Triple Threat between Ronda, Charlotte and Becky is what’s currently on the cards for WrestleMania, I think there’s a chance WWE will want both titles to be on the line, so Becky could win it back any day now.

Ultimately, I’m going with Asuka since I just can’t see why they’d have her win the title if they were going to take it off her before Wrestlemania, especially as soon as this.

Ronda Rousey(c) vs Sasha Banks
(Raw Women’s Championship)

Remember the days when Sasha was treated as a megastar in the women’s division? Good times.

That said, Sasha has been made to look pretty damn good in the build to this match, which is quite impressive considering how much of a chump she’s looked al lthroughout 2018. With any luck, Sasha will be able to carry this momentum into the Elimination Chamber next months where she’ll probably be fighting for the women’s tag titles. Who knows, maybe she’ll even stay this level of a star for the rest of the year.

This is one of those matches that doesn’t immediately spring to mind when you think of dream matches for Ronda Rousey, but now it’s being presented to me, I’m very happy to see it indeed. I spent all of 2018 singing the praises of Ronda Rousey as an in-ring competitor and I stand by that, so I’m expecting a fantastic match here, provided no shenanigans occur.

It’s not exactly hard to pick a winner though, Ronda Rousey is going to retain for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who knows who these women are.

Daniel Bryan(c) vs AJ Styles
(WWE Championship)

While I’m sure this will be a great match and I’m happy to see it, I can’t help but be a little bit disappointed this isn’t Bryan vs Ali.

I still love Styles as much as I did when he first joined WWE, but I think I’m done seeing him in the world title picture for quite a while now. His reign was long and filled with a lot of great matches with awful finishes, so once this is done I hope to see him try something new and interesting for a little while before sniffing around a world title again.

Bryan, on the other hand, should carry that title forever. His character since turning heel has been a brilliant heat magnet that crowds seem to love so much that they want to boo him. A heel that actually gets boos for doing heelish things, crazy I know.

I’m going with what I think should happen here and pick Daniel Bryan to retain and carry that thing into Wrestlemania to have a brilliant match with literally anyone on the Smackdown roster.

Brock Lesnar(c) vs Finn Balor
(Universal Championship)

I have but one simple request, which is for Finn Balor not to die please.

There’s a lot of fear out there regarding this match right now, that all of Balor’s momentum from winning two matches in one night and pinning John effing Cena will be wasted when Brock beats him easily in about 8 minutes. I was fearful of this too until I heard the news that apparently Brock requested Finn as Braun’s replacements since he likes to wrestle the “David vs Goliath” style of match.

Hearing things like this and looking back at matches such as Brock vs AJ and Brock vs Bryan have restored my hopes that this will actually be a pretty good match.

You don’t need me to tell you who’s going to win though. You can root for Finn all you like, but Brock Lesnar is winning.

Women’s Royal Rumble Match

I thought this one would be pretty hard for me to call until I read the list of participants.

For those who are unaware, the current match that is planned for Wrestlemania is Ronda vs Charlotte vs Becky. Now obviously plans can change at a moments notice in WWE, but I know many fans (myself included) will be a little disappointed we aren’t going to get Ronda vs Becky one on one.

As for the Rumble match itself, I’m looking forward to it. I was rather underwhelmed by the inaugural women’s Rumble last year, as I thought it relied too heavily on women from the past and didn’t focus on the current stars. However there are significantly more women on the main roster this year, so we should get some effective storytelling involving modern-day stars instead of the past this year.

Normally for a Rumble, I’d got through all the people who had a chance of winning but this time around there really seems to be only one choice for me. There is still a tiny part of me that is holding out hope that Becky will make a surprise entrance and win the thing, but I’ve got to go with my head here and pick Charlotte Flair to win this.

Men’s Royal Rumble Match

I’m really excited about this one.

I feel like last year’s euphoric win for Nakamura has restored my faith in the Royal Rumble match, even if what happened after wasn’t amazing. Even bad Rumble matches are fun to watch for the most part and I’m feeling pretty confident that this years will be a good one too.

While I think Drew Mcintyre does have an outside chance here, realistically this match is between two men for me:

John Cena – It’s generally never a good idea to count Cena out of any match like this, but this year, in particular, I think he’s one to watch. There isn’t really any of note on Smackdown right now that Bryan could face at Wrestlemania, and personally, I’d really like to see him fight Cena.

Cena is the antithesis to everything Daniel Bryan has been preaching these past few months, add onto that Cena’s 17th world title reign, their previous match at Summerslam 2013 and whatever drama is going on over on Total Bella’s and you’ve got yourself one hell of a story right there.

I’m fairly certain Cena vs Bryan will be the match at Wrestlemania, but I don’t think Cena’s going to go through the Rumble to get there.

Seth Rollins – You have no idea how badly I want this to happen. Seth Rollins has had arguably the best year of his career this year, putting on the best match of almost every major show he’s been on this year (TLC excluded). In process of making the Intercontinental Championship the most hotly contested title in WWE last year, he also built himself up to be the only man who could really take down Brock Lesnar in Roman Reigns’ absence.

Getting a Rumble win under his belt would be a fantastic way to go full steam ahead into Brock Lesnar and have a brilliant run with the Universal Championship, taking on all comers until the summer at least. It seems the most logical choice to me, and I really want to see it happen, so Rollins is the man I’m picking to win this year.

That’s all folks! Thank you very much for reading these predictions, follow me on Twitter @10ryawoo for live reactions to the Rumble on Sunday and NXT: Takeover on Saturday, and stay tuned for my review of the Rumble early next week!